Recent Articles about Climate Change

On November 6th, President Obama announced his decision to kill Phase IV of the Keystone XL Pipeline. In announcing his decision, President Obama said: “Ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”

In the wake of President Obama’s decision, there has been a flood of articles focusing on the key reason behind that decision: human-caused climate change.

Here are short summaries and links to five recent articles:


1

20151117scp... 'Obama, keep some fossil fuels in the ground'

Climate activist Bill McKibben puts into perspective President Obama’s evolution from a fossil fuel advocate to potentially become a leader of climate action. McKibben offers a fair analysis of the politics that delay responsible climate action. He then expresses his hope that we may be accelerating toward real climate action: “Four years ago neither Obama nor Romney even mentioned climate change during their presidential battle. This year Bernie Sanders has made it one of the two centerpieces of his campaign (alongside inequality), and he’s skillfully pulled Hillary Clinton along with him.”


2
When we are not being bullied by climate-deniers, it becomes clear that climate change is widely accepted in the science community. Among the earliest impact manifestations of anthropogenic climate change, we are now recording rising temperatures in both the atmosphere and the oceans. In just the past few decades, scientists have come to understand the El Niño / La Niña cycles that would cause fluctuating weather patterns even without our off-the-charts atmospheric CO2. 20151117scp.. 'El Nino & Climate Change' (Ecowatch post) In a World Meteorological Organization press release, WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud stated: “Our scientific understanding of El Niño has increased greatly in recent years. However, this event is playing out in uncharted territory. Our planet has altered dramatically because of climate change—the general trend towards a warmer global ocean, the loss of Arctic sea ice and of over a million square kilometers of summer snow cover in the northern hemisphere.”

3
Just hours after the second televised Democratic Party debate, Senator Bernie Sanders was interviewed on ‘Face the Nation’. The interviewer asked him to further clarify the connection between climate change and the social instability and forced migration that can increase terrorism. “When people migrate into cities and they don’t have jobs, there’s going to be a lot more instability, a lot more unemployment, and people will be subject to the types of propaganda that al Qaeda and ISIS are using right now.” It is important to note that this is not just a Presidential candidate and Progressive leader speaking; this belief has also been expressed by both the CIA and the U.S. Defense Department.


4

20151117cpy.. coal strip mine pic.pgOn November 4th, Senator Jeff Merkley (Oregon) introduced S.2238, the ‘Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground Act of 2015’. Cosponsors included Bernie Sanders (Vermont), Patrick Leahy (Vermont), Ben Cardin (Maryland), Barbara Boxer (California), Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts). The legislation aims to stop endless government giveaways of oil, coal, and other resources, both offshore and under government lands, so as “… to prevent the release of 90 percent of the potential emissions from Federal fossil fuels.”

20151117scp.. 'Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground Act' w map of U.S. fossil fuel locations

(click on image to view article at EcoWatch.com)


5

20151117cpy.. nyemeltdownIn a 44-minute video posted online by the National Geographic Channel, Bill Nye pretends to be a typical person worried about climate change, visiting with his shrink, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The therapy session is both amusing and informative. ‘Dr. Schwarzenegger’ suggests that his troubled patient is suffering from ‘Climate Change Grief’, and needs to progress through the five classic stages of grief:

  • Stage 1: Denial (starts at video time 3:03)
  • Stage 2: Anger
  • Stage 3: Bargaining
  • Stage 4: Depression, and
  • Stage 5: Acceptance.


Unfortunately, late on the morning of November 17th, during this writer’s review of the video, National Geographic decided to block free online access (hmmm, feels like Stage 4?). Maybe Bill Nye has put together an outstanding presentation, which could help more people begin to fully understand the gravity of our changing climate situation. We may never know. But, if the whole video is as good as the first ten minutes, let’s hope National Geographic will do a good deed for the Earth, and remove the paywall, restoring free online access that can encourage more people to learn and take action. In the meantime, this link does offer a brief slideshow.


Florida Airports are Particularly Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise

If there is one U.S. state whose airports are most vulnerable to climate change, it is Florida, where many significant airports are at very low elevation. The busiest Florida airport, KMIA in Miami, is at 9-feet elevation. The state’s fifth-busiest airport, KFLL in Fort Lauderdale,**The airport at Fort Lauderdale is undergoing an $800 Million project to expand one of the runways. The design includes elevating the runway, with bridges over where the extended runway crosses railroad tracks and a major highway (US Highway 1). This may be the first of many necessary and very expensive projects to elevate Florida runways. It seems doubtful that our economy will remain capable of funding such large aviation projects in another decade or two. is also at just 9-feet elevation. The state’s sixth-busiest airport, KTMB to the southwest of Miami, sits at just 10-feet elevation.

As atmospheric CO2 continues to climb, it is expected that the massive amounts of ice on Greenland and Antarctica will continue to melt. The rates of melting in the past decade have increased substantially, and some now believe that we have passed a tipping point — that the meltoff is irreversible. If so, sea levels around the world are expected to rise by dozens of feet. Of course, how quickly the sea levels rise depends on how quickly the ice melts or slides off into the adjacent seas.

Considering the vulnerability of Florida aviation to climate change sea-level rise, it is shocking to see the diversity of reactions by Floridians. On the one extreme, Senator Marco Rubio is in full denial. Yet, on the other extreme, a major Christian group is bucking the conservative trend and speaking of how we have a moral and religious obligation to protect our environment:

“…Climate change just isn’t in faraway places. Florida, your home, literally represents “ground zero.” Sea level rise, more extreme weather, saltwater contaminated wells, loss of farm land and increased air pollution all pose significant threats to the health and well-being of Floridians. Unfortunately, a few in our nation are attempting to portray addressing climate change as a liberal issue. It’s not. It’s a moral challenge to all Americans. It is a call to follow our Risen Lord and act to prepare for the impacts, many of which are already happening, and to work to reduce our carbon pollution to help our children, now and in the future….”

One other area of the U.S. that is especially vulnerable: New York City. The three busiest airports there all average more than 1,000 operations per day and include: KEWR in Newark at 10-feet elevation, KJFK (Kennedy) in New York in Jamaica at 12-feet elevation, and KLGA (LaGuardia) at 12-feet elevation (and with one runway end at just 7-feet elevation).


Links to three recent articles:

 

The Race Past 400ppm Continues…

…with a new Record High. The Keeling Curve atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa measured 402.84 parts per million (ppm) on May 31st, and the May average will soon be announced. A year ago, the May average was 399.76 ppm. Two years ago it was 396.78 ppm; in 2004 it was 380.63 ppm; in 1994 it was 361.68 ppm. Atmospheric CO2 ppm is not just increasing — it is accelerating. In the meantime, government officials fail to address this emerging problem which will raise ocean levels,  intensify weather, and destroy crops. This puts everyone at risk, not just of ‘inconvenience’, but of species collapse.

click on chart to see Keeling Curve at Scripps (ucsd.edu)

Aviation has an exceptionally high rate of CO2 production. An hour spent on a commercial airliner is roughly equivalent to ten hours spent driving a car. In fact, a concerned citizen who minimizes energy consumption can destroy all of their gains by just one long-distance flight. Substituting biofuels is not a solution, as biofuels still contribute to the growing CO2 levels, which are now far beyond what any humans have ever experienced. The only real solutions will include aggressive actions to reduce aviation, such as:

  • the imposition of steep aviation fuel taxes (or an overall carbon tax);
  • the curtailment of aviation subsidies that encourage excessive air travel, especially by businesses and corporations;
  • substantial reduction of air cargo shipment, especially those on all-cargo fleets;
  • and, a careful management of the overall aviation system, to eliminate fuel-inefficient doglegs such as are done when Super-Hubs are used (Atlanta, O’Hare, DFW, Newark, and Charlotte, are among the worst).

2014 National Climate Assessment Report Released

20140506.. 3rd NCA, cover imageToday, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) released the Third National Climate Assessment.  This is the latest in a series of government scientific reports predicting U.S. climate change impacts. The first NCA was issued in 2000, and the second NCA was issued in 2009.

Notably, both major political parties have embraced the need to “assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” USGCRP was established by Presidential Initiative in 1989, during the first Bush Administration, and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990. All three Assessment reports were issued during Democratic administrations.

To view a short analysis of the Third National Climate Assessment, with graphs emphasizing how we are damaging our oceans and our atmosphere, please click on page two of this Post.

Here’s one small opinion.

President Bush issued his Presidential Initiative in 1989. We are now twenty-five years further down the road, with accelerated carbon pollution and no notable progress in reducing our carbon impact on our home planet.

We need to act, but we are failing. If we are ever to get a grip on this expanding problem and take care to protect our environment for future generations, we will need to substantially reduce energy consumption. The easiest ways to do this include the following:

  1. Rationalize Energy Pricing: Impose a steep carbon tax that discourages all carbon-based fuel consumption. End all government subsidies that encourage extraction of fossil fuels (commonly as a political favor to corporations). End all governmental subsidies that encourage energy consumption (commonly as a mechanism to grow the economy and bolster political incumbency).
  2. Emphasize LOCAL Quality of Life: Take decisive actions to reconfigure the physical layout of communities, to eliminate the current excessive reliance on automobiles, aircraft, and other carbon-intensive transportation modes. Within this strategy, to ensure quality of life, all citizens need to have local access to retail, schools, community facilities, and preserved (and ecologically vibrant) natural spaces.
  3. Eliminate Energy Loss in Our Buildings: Ensure optimal designs and technologies are applied to construct and retrofit our residences, workplaces and other buildings, so that we may have healthy air and protection from weather, while minimizing energy consumption.
  4. Rationalize Pricing in Aviation: The current aviation system lacks rational pricing and encourages wasteful routes via overly concentrated airport ‘Super-Hubs’. Restructure the aviation taxes to end overdevelopment of hubs, while incentivizing use of the most direct routes. End all governmental subsidies, such as aviation fuel tax breaks and aircraft purchase tax depreciations, that effectively incentivize aviation consumption of carbon fuels. Invest a reasonable portion of FAA’s efforts to maximize transparency in aviation pricing, so that airlines are motivated to rationally price.
…see page two for a brief overview of the Report…

A Fierce Green Fire

pbsfilmFI This documentary will resonate with any who grew up in the ’60s or ’70s, and it will inform those who want to understand the history of Environmentalism. It looks at how bad things became in the 1960’s (a burning river, Love Canal, the DDT crisis, etc.), and how people began to speak up.

It also looks at how things then changed. Earth Day was started in 1970, and we passed lots of new legislation, including the Clean Air Act. But, companies then learned to ‘greenwash‘, marketing their image and their products in ways that helped people to feel good about consuming more. And, their greenwashing worked; for example, our annual miles of air travel and our annual fossil fuel consumption (and production of CO2) continue to rise every year.

This documentary looks at how superficial our actions are, and how we need to do a lot more, especially as it relates to the evolving crisis of man-made atmospheric CO2 and climate change.

As a tribute to Earth Day, A Fierce Green Fire is scheduled to air nationwide at 9 p.m. on April 22 on PBS stations (check local listings).

Drawing the Line: saying ‘NO’ to Tar Sands

Our culture – and our economy – is deeply focused on consumption. The most fundamental form of consumption is energy and, in the last two centuries, we have become addicted to fossil fuel consumption. A few people (and a few companies) stand to profit immensely by feeding this consumption habit. They will level mountains for Appalachian coal, scar northern Alberta for tar sands, destroy precious groundwater with fracking, pollute the air and water near pipelines and railroads and refineries, and wage intensive denial campaigns against the growing evidence of man-made CO2 generation. All for a buck, and all with no concern for the problems they create for the next generation. The Keystone XL pipeline decision has been delayed. Money and politicians in Canada (is there a difference?) are upset, as reported in the news. Some in the U.S. are hopeful that this indicates our government may eventually reject the Keystone XL proposal as a first step toward attacking the growing carbon-pollution problem.

One area where the damage is becoming visible is in polar ice. On the next page, please find the latest graphs that look at ice and temperature trends for both the north pole (Arctic Ocean) and the south pole (Antarctica).

Big Changes in Polar Sea Ice and Ocean Heat Up-wellings

A very interesting website provides graphs, photos, and links to studies related to how our world is changing. The graph below shows the ice volume in the Arctic, with months color-coded, and the progression of years sequenced around the perimeter. Note the very substantial changes by comparing the end of each color at the 2012 or 2013 plots with the ends of the same color lines in the year 1979. For example, February has declined from 30,000 cubic kilometers of ice in 1979 to 18,000 cubic kilometers of ice in 2013; September has declined from 17,000 cubic kilometers of ice in 1979 to roughly 3,000 cubic kilometers of ice in 2012.

Those who love to study data will enjoy this website:

http://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/

The latest news item being presented is the large pool of intensely warmed water that is being measured in the East Pacific, triggering what is projected to be a ‘Super El Niño’ cycle. Essentially, energy has been down-welling into the ocean in recent years, but the other half of that cycle – the up-welling – is now commencing. A growing area is measuring at more than ten degrees Fahrenheit above normal temperatures. Importantly, weather is driven by energy in the atmosphere. Thus, this added heat will drive stronger and more frequent weather events.

Our Addiction to Carbon

Michael Klare has written an Op-Ed at TomDispatch, titled ‘Carbon Delirium’. NationOfChange.org does a great job posting content like this everyday. Aviation is an extremely fuel-intensive activity, and as such, aviation will be VERY impacted as we try to wean off of this carbon addiction.

Here are a few lines from Mr. Klare’s closing paragraphs:

“…In the U.S., addiction to carbon is present at all levels of society….”

“…Overcoming individual addiction to narcotic substances is never an easy task; resisting our addiction to carbon will prove no easier. However, the sooner we recast the climate issue as a public health problem, akin to drug addiction, the sooner we will be able to fashion effective strategies for averting its worst effects. This means, for example, providing programs and incentives for those of us who seek to reduce our reliance on petroleum, and imposing penalties on those who resist such a transition or actively promote addiction to fossil fuels….”

“…a more far-ranging kind of carbon detoxification must come in time. As with all addictions, the first and most crucial step is to acknowledge that our addiction to fossil fuels has reached such an advanced stage as to pose a direct danger to all humanity. If we are to have any hope of averting the worst effects of climate change, we must fashion a 12-step program for universal carbon renunciation….”

In his introduction to the ‘Carbon Delirium’ piece, Tom Engelhardt included this statement:

“…We’re burning fossil fuels as if — excuse the phrase — there were no tomorrow, while the Big Energy companies are finding new ways to release ever more of the ever-tougher variety of fossil fuels from their underground reserves….”

A related NationOfChange.org post is John Light’s ‘Five Key Takeaways From the Frightening IPCC Climate Change Report’.


UPDATE, 6/14/2017: — links to NationOfChange were dead, so copies were located, converted to PDF, archived, and the links updated.

FAA Impeding Aerial Coverage of Spill Damages

Dilbit comes home to Suburban Arkansas

Roughly a half million gallons of toxic and carcinogenic petrochemicals spilled from a 1940’s-era pipeline, forcing the evacuation of dozens of homeowners in Mayflower, AR. mayflower-spill-pic-replace-deadlinkThe 20-inch diameter Pegasus pipeline is owned by ExxonMobil and runs from  Patoka, IL to the Texas Gulf Coast. Two other high-profile pipeline accidents in recent years are the July 2010 Enbridge pipeline rupture into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, and the July 2011 ExxonMobil pipeline failure which polluted the Yellowstone River, in Montana.

Dilbit is ‘diluted bitumen’. Bitumen is the thick, gooey mass mined from the Alberta tar sands. It is so thick it will not flow unless it is first mixed with ‘diluent’. Water does not chemically mix with oil, so the diluent contains naptha, benzene, and various other light and volatile hydrocarbons. The important thing to the oil industry is that this slurry mixture, when heated and pressurized, allows the tarry bitumen to flow quickly through pipelines. The danger to people, though, is that many of the diluent chemicals are also carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and potentially fatal. All of these compounds are easily breathed in, and they quickly evaporate into the open air if accidentally released.

Throughout the history of petroleum pipelines, we have grown accustomed to leaks happening, and we always trusted the spills were fully cleaned up. But, historically, these pipeline breaches have almost always involved either crude oil or finished oil products. Today, we fail to comprehend that a dilbit spill is very different from classic pipeline accidents. Instead of one type of accident response, a dilbit spill requires two different strategies: one for the heavy bitumen, and one for the light diluent. When dilbit is accidentally released, the diluent quickly separates and evaporates into the air we breathe, while the bitumen begins to clump and settle. In a marsh area (or a riverbed, such as the Kalamazoo River in Michigan where NTSB investigated a big dilbit spill that occurred on July 25, 2010), the bitumen ‘disappears’ under the water surface and collects in the mud, where the crawdads and catfish lurk. So, if the cleanup is only superficial, millions will be spent setting up booms and pumping the surface, while pretending all has been fixed, when in fact the bitumen has only settled out of sight. Even today, residents stir up oily pollutants when they wade into damaged parts of the Kalamazoo. Check out this video of bitumen remaining at Kalamazoo, done by whistleblower John Bolenbaugh. (…just click on the photo of the greasy glove —>)

In this latest accident, in Mayflower, we have to be concerned that ExxonMobil will actually clean up all the bitumen that has settled into the marsh/swamp/bay on the southwest shore of Lake Conway. We have a larger Public Interest to see this cleanup through, but if our government aids corporations to impede news about the cleanup, the likelihood of a failed cleanup is greatly increased.

“Oh, Canada . . . ” (where have you gone?)

It is to be expected that a 1960’s kid in the Pacific Northwest, who grows up backpacking in the Cascades, should be keenly aware of the damages that can be done via forest clearcuts and other forms of resource extraction. I was a kid like that, and I always admired the Canadians for what appeared to be a strong inclination toward preserving forests and natural environments. Any country with geese and beaver on their coins just has to be green, right? So, with the recent explosion of Tar Sands development, and the endless environmental horror stories (accompanied with satellite imagery and video), I am baffled: where did Canada go? How can they be digging up an area in Alberta as large as England, polluting their waters, killing their birds, and ripping out all that forest? Decades ago, if someone had told me Canada would become a major player in global-scale environmental destruction, I would never have believed them. But, it is now 2013, and here we are; goodbye Athabasca River and Boreal Forest; hello cancer, CO2 and global warming. Canada, long known for respecting minority rights, is becoming a petro-state, with all the oppression and demise that money can buy. I have no doubt that only a few Canadians are as greedy as the ugliest Americans, but I suspect most Canadians continue to be good people as they always were …  but are increasingly afraid to speak up about the accumulating environmental destruction.

And now, FAA is impeding Media Access

The pipeline burst in the late afternoon, on Friday March 29th. News Releases by ExxonMobil state that emergency respondents were on-site within thirty minutes ‘after the leak was detected’. A Saturday news release noted the evacuation of 22 homes, as well as the deployment of 2,000 feet of boom and fifteen vacuum trucks, to contain and remove spill materials; in their March 30th news release, ExxonMobil added that 4,500 barrels of oil and water had already been removed. That was Saturday. Four days later, on Wednesday afternoon  FAA issued a TFR (temporary flight restriction). Here’s the text…

FDC 3/9344 ZME AR.. FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS MAYFLOWER, AR. EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. PURSUANT TO 14 CFR SECTION 91.137(A)(2) TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS ARE IN EFFECT FOR OIL PIPELINE RUPTURE ONLY RELIEF AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS UNDER DIRECTION OF TOM SUHRHOFF ARE AUTHORIZED IN THE AIRSPACE AT AND BELOW 1000 FEET AGL WITHIN A 5 NAUTICAL MILE RADIUS OF 345855N/0922642W OR THE LITTLE ROCK /LIT/ VORTAC 319 DEGREE RADIAL AT 22.4 NAUTICAL MILES TOM SUHRHOFF TELEPHONE 713-299-2572 IS IN CHARGE OF ON SCENE EMERGENCY RESPONSE ACTIVITY. MEMPHIS /ZME/ ARTCC, TELEPHONE 901-368-8234 IS, THE FAA COORDINATION FACILITY.
[the earliest version was issued 9:12AM local time, Monday, 4/1/13 link]

Two problems with this are:

  1. first, why is FAA granting control of this airspace to an official representing ExxonMobil (and not an actual public emergency official)?
  2. and second, why is the flight restriction being initiated for an emergency response, but more than four days AFTER the actual response is largely finished?

Where is the need for any flight restriction? Why must it extend five miles from the polluted area, and why a restriction at all, when the response is done and the cleanup is all going to be on the ground, with minimal (if any) possible helicopter support?

It is bad enough that leaders in the Canadian government are allowing the destruction of pristine lands (and one of the largest remaining forests on the planet), all for the production of oil that is only accelerating climate change. For the U.S. government to aid in this process though, by allowing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, only magnifies the bad. And then, when U.S. Federal agencies such as FAA take actions designed to obstruct citizen access to imagery and other factual information about a disaster, well, so much for Democracy.

We have to be able to trust our government. If we cannot, our Democracy fails.

These recent actions by FAA, create a strong appearance that FAA exists to serve corporate interests. Less than three months ago, when the Boeing 787 batteries were catching fire and endangering passengers, FAA told us all it was safe, and allowed continued commercial use. Then, a week later, another battery fire forced an emergency landing in Japan. This led to two actions: first, Japanese authorities grounded the 787, and second, NTSB spoke up about how fires are not supposed to happen on airplanes. These two actions forced FAA’s hand, and they finally grounded all 787’s.

Can anyone explain, how can FAA ignore actual airplane fires and delay grounding the 787, then be so quick to restrict aerial images over an ExxonMobil pipeline accident (but days after the actual emergency response is finished)? This makes no sense . . . unless the real purpose of FAA is as a servant to corporate interests. Could it be?

Here are three suggestions:
  1. NTSB needs to open an investigation of the Mayflower pipeline accident, as this incident has huge significance to the pending decision on Keystone XL. NTSB did not really look at issues specific to dilbit in their 164-page Kalamazoo/Enbridge report (Kalamazoo, 7/25/10). And, our government needs to put their Keystone XL Pipeline decision on hold until AFTER NTSB releases this important investigative report about dilbit pipeline hazards.
  2. Our government needs to give us (as citizens) full transparency on the Mayflower damages and cleanup. This should include daily online HD aerial imagery, so we can see what ExxonMobil is doing to our land, our soil, our water, our air.
  3. FAA needs to produce a written explanation as to how they justified this excessive TFR, including how they can justify giving control of that airspace to an individual representing a corporate entity (Tom Suhrhoff, of ExxonMobil).
Woody Guthrie was right…

[“…this land is your land…”]

Additional info at this aiR page